A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master ★★

August 19, 1988. 11 year old me saw this opening night at the long gone Northtown Cinema. My older sister took me and the energy in the theater was like a rock concert. I don’t even remember Batman a year later in the same joint having that raucous an audience. When the camera panned over to Freddy’s shadow in the junkyard, the eruption of applause damn near blew the hat off the house. 

A blast at the time, sure, but in retrospect, eliciting that sort of rapturous response was the problem with this entry. Sure it’s a slick looking film with a lot of energetic camera movements from a promising young director. But in actuality it’s nothing more than an ephemeral, pop culture piece of shit that has aged about as well as Organic produce. This film is so fucking toothless, so devoid of any subtext or substance as to be virtually worthless and absolutely inessential. 

It’s basically just a brightly lit Robert Englund, drunk on his own celebrity and horse laughing at all his own terrible jokes. A 95 minute shark jump. This thing looks like a Bananarama music video that had its world premiere at Wrestlemania 6. Like a Dentyne ad taking place inside a Circus Circus arcade. To some, I suppose that’s comforting, perhaps even reassuringly reminiscent of a simpler time. I’m not saying I don’t get a small sense of that, having myself lived through this era. 

But mostly watching this gives me the same feeling seeing a photo of myself in a Hypercolor shirt with a mullet does. There’s a fucking Fat Boys song over the credits with Freddy rapping for fuck’s sake. 

I’ll give this film credit for the standout sequence involving Alice and the jock guy getting trapped in a time loop trying to save the girl in the roach motel. That is a genuinely inventive and unsettling stretch of the film that starts veering toward being memorable. Then it devolves into some tedious fist fight showdown with Lisa Wilcox’s stunt double flipping around in slow motion off trampolines and stupid shit like that. 

Then she dispatches Freddy by showing him his own reflection? Then all the souls now trapped inside him tear him apart? Ok, whatever you say Renny Harlin. You’re only 7 years away from Cutthroat Island and destroying your career forever, so I’ll give you a mulligan on this one. 

This is meaningless garbage for indiscriminate audiences. This is a Spencer’s Gifts with Crystal Pepsi spilled all over the floor and your feet get stuck so you’re busted standing in front of the rack full of posters of nearly naked women 11 year old dudes like me bought to prove to our parents we weren’t gay. God the 80’s were gross.

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